Ahmaz Orientalism

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(Not) Reading Orientalism Author(s): Graham Huggan Source: Research in African Literatures, Vol. 36, No. 3, Edward Said, Africa, and Cultural Criticism (Autumn, 2005), pp. 124-136 Published by: Indiana University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3821368 . Accessed: 16/09/2013 13:38 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that
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  (Not) Reading Orientalism Author(s): Graham HugganSource: Research in African Literatures, Vol. 36, No. 3, Edward Said, Africa, and CulturalCriticism (Autumn, 2005), pp. 124-136Published by: Indiana University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3821368. Accessed: 16/09/2013 13:38 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. .  Indiana University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Research in African Literatures. http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from 200.75.19.130 on Mon, 16 Sep 2013 13:38:51 PMAll use subject toJSTOR Terms and Conditions  (Not)ReadingOrientalismGRAHAM HUGGANLeedsUniversityABSTRACTSince itspublicationin thelate1970s,Orientalismhas beensubjectto awidevarietyofnotalways friendly nterpretations, romptingEdward Saidto offer neortwoadditions,correctives,ndsideswipesof his own. Thisessay looks?highlyselectively,sit must?at recentpatternsfreceptionforOrientalism,rguingthat the book has been re-Orientalized byitsreaders,andmightven be considered to beOrientalist tself.Theessaywillfocus onprovocativecrossdisciplinaryreadings byAijazAhmad,MeydaYegenoglu,and DavidCannadine,aswell as on evenmoreprovocative responsestohisownwork,andtoresponses byothers,from aidhimself.twillconsider thedivergentlaimsmadeby appreciatorsnd detractorsfOrientalism,claimssometimesapparentlymade less on thestrengthf what has been than whathasn't beenread.Fewtexts could be moreexcessive,intermsof theirproductionandreception,than Orientalism1978),thebest-known book of a manwhose deathlastyeartookawayfrom usoneof themosteloquentandforcefulpublicintellectualsofthepresentday(Viswanathanxi).Orientalism,lthoughfrequentlyeen asflawed,even as one of EdwardSaid's weakestefforts,sfar andawaythemost talked-aboutand influentialof thetwenty-oddbooks he wroteduringan almostunimaginablyprolificcareer. Thebook,translated at thelast count intothirty-six anguages,is theproductof anequally protean personality,knownalike forhis passionatehumanism,hiscultivation anderudition,hisprovocativeviews,andhisunswervingcommitmentto thecause ofPalestinianself-determination Viswanathanxi-xii).Multipleandwide-rangingcontributions to thefields ofliterary cholarship,culturalpolitics,andmusic arelesssuggestiveof theachievementsof asingle figurehan ofseveral,while,inthe workitself,hedizzyingpluralityofnotalwayscompatiblesubjects,methods,andapproaches similarly presentsuswith not one buta veritablesurfeit of Saids.Giventheastonishingrangeandlastingimpactof Said'soeuvre,t shardlysurprisingthat thereshould nowbe aboomingSaidindustry,nwhichnumerousscholars fromall corners ofthe worldhave taken theopportunitytoengageinconversation?not all*RESEARCH INAFRICANLITERATURES,Vol.36,No. 3(Fail2005).?2005* This content downloaded from 200.75.19.130 on Mon, 16 Sep 2013 13:38:51 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  GRAHAMHUGGAN# 125of itfriendly?withhiswork. ToadaptaphraseappliedbyHenryLouisgatesto thegreatMartinicanpsychiatristand anticolonialactivist FrantzFanon,we havebeenwitnessingfor some timenow anevolvedform of criticalSaidism in whichverydifferenteadingsareapplied,andveryideologicalusesgiven,to Said'swork.LikeFanonbeforehim,Saidwas to becomea talismanicintellectualandpoliticalfigure,whileOrientalism,nparticular,was tobe transformedovertime into oneofthelatetwentiethcentury'sfewtrulytotemiccriticalworks(seeGates457-58).WhyOrientalismln a 1995 reviewessay, GyanPrakashattributesthephenom-enalsuccessofOrientalismto itscapacitytounsettle receivedcategoriesandmodesofunderstanding (n.p.). AccordingtoPrakash,Orientaiism's[plersistentndrestlessmovements etweenuthorial ntentionsnd discursiveregimes, cholarlymonographsndpoliticalracts,iteraturendhistory,hilol-ogyandtravelwritings,lassical texts ndtwentieth-centuryolemicsproducedaprofounduncertainty...]in which the establishedauthorityf Orientalistscholars nd their inesofnquirycame]undone.[The]ambivalent ffectfOri?entalisminvited]hargesfundisciplinedhinkingndideologicalbadfaith,ndprompt[ed]riticsoforcetsunsettlingmovement etween differentositionsinto an either/orhoicewhichtheyhentarget[ed]orriticism.ignificantly,t[was]preciselyuchboundary-crossingsndstagingsfcontrary ositionsthat[proved]tobethemostproductivend influentialmaneuvers,ncitingurthercriticaltudiesofthemodernWest'sonstructionfthe Other. uch studies...]elaborated and extended tsargument,ndSaid himselfwent]on toproduceother studies of therelationshipetween Westernpowerandknowledge.ButOrientalism'suthoritys acritiqueof Westernknowledgeremainsunmatched,and continues o deriveforceromtssubversive iolation fborders.n.p.)This isanastuteand,Iwouldargue,fairlyccurate account oftheimpactof Oriental?ism bothoncontemporaneousreadersin the ate70s andon agenerationofself-styled oppositional critics?postcolonial,feminist,minority-activist?eversince.Not allofthesereaders,needlesstosay,haveagreedwiththe central tenets ofOrientalism,ndmuch oftheoppositionalcriticismthat thebookhasgeneratedderived itsmomentumfromspectsofSaid'sargumentto which itsitself ftenvehementlyopposed. Broadlyspeaking,threepatternsnthecriticalresponsetoOrientalismhave established them?selves. The firstfthesepatternsnvolves whatmightbecalledthe de-Orientalization ofOrientalismthe method).AsLisa Lowe hassuggested,Orientalism is more histori-callyandgeographically heterogeneousthanmanyreaders havegivenSaid creditfor;theOrienttowhichherefers,tdifferentmomentsandindifferentnterests,mayencompassallorpartsofCentralAsia,NorthAfrica,Turkey,and theMiddle East(Lowe5).Butgiventhe fundamentalheterogeneityndinstabilityofthediscoursescontained withinthe umbrellaterm Orientalism, whynot castthe neteven wider?Lowe,forne,cannotresist,ncludingachapternherbookontheutopian projectionofJapanandChina under Frenchpoststructuralism(CriticalTerrainsch.5).Othercriticshaveinterpretedtherangeandscopeof Orientalismeven morefreely,singit,forexample,as a critical tool fortheunpackingofself-serving Europeancolonialconstructions of darkestAfrica andtheircorrespondingculturalmythssee Miller).Studiessuchasthese,whichSaidwelcomed( OrientalismReconsidered 140;seealso Viswanathan220),riskemptyingoutthealreadymythologizedcategoryoftheOrient,turningOrientalism intoa codeword forvirtually anykindofOthering This content downloaded from 200.75.19.130 on Mon, 16 Sep 2013 13:38:51 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions  126*RESEARCH IN AFRICAN LITERATURESprocessthatinvolves themappingofdominating practicesofknowledge/powerontopeoplesseen,howevertemporarilyorstrategically,asculturally marginal, economically undeveloped, orpsychologically weak. Thefocus onthetranslocalor,perhapsbetter,therelocalizedrepresentationaland administrative mechanismsofOrientalism haveproducedsomepowerfulanti-authoritarianscholarship:inJapanandLatimAmerica,forinstance,andinmanyregionsof theformerlyolonizedworld. Asmightbeexpected, though,thelooselyrhetoricalusageofthecategoryoftheOrient that such anapproachencourageshas led at times to areinscriptionof theverybinaries( West versus Rest or,paradoxically, West versus East )that Said'sownwork hadpreviously goneto suchlengthsto resist.AsecondpatternofresponsetoOrientalismemergeshere that wemightcallthe re-Orientalization fOrientalismthebook).Within thispattern,Orientalism'sexclusionaryandimmobilizingstrategiesare eitherinadvertently reproduced bythose whoseek to uncover alternativeexamplesof itsworkings( anti-OrientalistOrientalism )or areconsciously deployedbythosewho,constructingthemselvesas the West'svictims,turnagainsttheiradversariesinuncompromising gesturesofcollectiveprideandrighteous anti-imperialistrevenge( Occidentalism ).Thephe-nomenon of anti-OrientalistOrientalism, inparticular, begsthequestionas to theself-replicatingendencies ofOrientalism,neatly capturedinJamesClifford's lmostapologetic suggestionthat Said'sbook,forll thepowerofitscriticism, sometimesappearsto mimictheessentializingdiscourse itattacks (262).Iwillcome back tothissuggestionindetaillater,viaAijazAhmad'scausticreadingofOrientalism. Forthemoment,sufficetopointout a thirdcategoryofresponsetoSaid's textthat drawsattention,explicitlyorimplicitly,to theunreflectedOrientalismofOrientalismitself.Thislargelyhostile view ofOrientalismthe book)isfounded on aseries ofapparentlyembarrassing paradoxes:that itreproducestheenumerative,patientlycumulative,andpaternalisticmethods of the master Orientalists;that itreinstates broadtran-shistoricalandculturalgeneralizationinthe service ofmagisterial expertise;thatitsseeminglycounterintuitivensistence on theinternalconsistencyofOrientalismisinconsistent withSaid's ownFoucault-inspireddiscursivemethods(butremainsuncannilyconsistentwiththeself-authorizingmaneuversofclassicalOrientalismitself);that itassembles atextualizedOrientwithaview toestablishingintellectualauthorityoverit,evenifthis textual,contemplative Orientis neverallowed,likeitsnineteenth-centuryhistoricalcounterpart,tofacilitate hecontrol ofthegeographicalOrient as an economic,administrativeand evenmilitary space (Orientalism210).Myownviewis that thesecriticisms arelargelyvalid,eveniftheyflirtwiththekind ofself-congratulatorybreaction thatisperhapsmoretypicalofsecond-order( anti-OrientalistOrientalist and/or Occidentalist )responsesto Said'swork.Whatinterests me inthisparticularessay,however,isnot toproduceaninventoryof dif?ferent(mis)readingsofOrientalismbut to showthe linkbetweenknowledge, power,andauthoritythatderives fromthewaysit hasbeenread.Read,andnotread,orat leastoftenreadinisolation orselectively;forone ofthemostinteresting aspectsofthecontinuingsagaof(not)readingOrientalismhasbeen atendencytobypassthetext,either intheinterestsofdeclaringapoliticalallegianceorinthemoredis-guisedattempttomake the booksymptomaticfortheentiretyof itsauthor'swork.Thistendencyisall themoreinterestinggiventheconnectionsSaidhimselfmakesbetweenOrientalisttextualityandreading.TheOrientalists,Saidsuggests,pro?duced?amongseveral otherthings?akind ofcollectiveguidebookforuninitiated This content downloaded from 200.75.19.130 on Mon, 16 Sep 2013 13:38:51 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions
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